Eastern Europe Trip – Day 9 – Budapest, Hungary

Today was my first full day in Budapest, Hungary. The hotel I’m staying at offers a free buffet breakfast, which is a nice welcome as it saves money. After having some breakfast and coffee I started exploring Budapest.

After crossing the Danube River on a nearby bridge I arrived at the Danubius Hotel Gellert, which also houses the Gellert Thermal Bath. The Secession / Art Nouveau style hotel, designed by Ármin Hegedűs, Artúr Sebestyén and Izidor Sterk, was opened in 1918. The hotel was named after Saint Gellert, the first bishop of Hungary in the 11th Century. The hotel was taken over for national government use in 1919 after the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Once Hungary became an independent country the hotel became so successful that it was expanded in 1927 to add an additional 60 rooms, to its existing 176 rooms, as well as a wave pool. In 1934 the hotel added a jacuzzi pool. In World War 2 the hotel was damaged extensively. The hotel underwent restoration work between 1946 to 1962 and was renovated again in 1973. The spa is now owned and operated by the City of Budapest.

While walking to the hotel you could see the nearby Rudas Baths. The Rudas Baths are a thermal and medicinal bath built at the foot of Gellért Hill. The baths were originally built in 1550 during the Ottoman ruling. Even to date the building has many key elements of Turkish designed baths including a dome and octagonal pool. The bath has six hot pools and one swimming pool where the temperatures range from 10°C to 42°C. The water is slightly radioactive and includes a lot of minerals includes sulfate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and fluoride ion. It was reopened in its current form in 2006 after an extensive renovation. The baths are open to women only on Tuesdays, men the rest of the week, and mixed-use on the weekends.

After exploring the hotel I walked up the steep Gellert Hill to see Liberty Statue and the Citadella, which were, unfortunately, both blocked off due to rehabilitation in the area, and won’t reopen until mid next year.

Liberty Statue was erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary during World War 2, which ended the German Nazi occupation of the country. It is located on Gellért Hill, which provides beautiful views of the city. The bronze statue, which is holding a palm leaf, is 14 metres (45 feet) tall and sits on top of a 26 metre (85 foot) concrete pedestal.

The Citadella (Citadel) is a fortification on top of Gellért Hill. It was built in 1851 by Julius Jacob von Haynau, a commander of the Austrian Empire, and was designed by Emmanuel Zitta and Ferenc Kasselik, after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The fortress is a U-shaped structure that is built around a central courtyard, and takes up the majority of the entire plateau. The main gate was damaged in 1897 and the walls were demolished in 1900. The city took possession of the citadel in 1899. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Soviets occupied the citadel and fired upon the city during the assault that overthrew the Nagy-led Hungarian government.

After taking pictures of the Liberty Statue and enjoying the beautiful views of the city below it was time to descend the hill and walk over to Buda Castle, which was also undergoing some extensive renovations. Buda Castle is a beautiful castle and palace complex that was started in 1265 on Castle Hill. The first royal residence built on Castle Hill was built by King Béla IV between 1247 and 1265 to provide protection from the Mongols and the Tartars. The oldest part of the present-day palace was built in the 14th century by Stephen, Duke of Slavonia; the younger brother of King Louis I of Hungary. In the late Middle Ages, the castle was altered to suit the needs of King Sigismund, leader of the Holy Roman Empire. A large Gothic style palace was built. In the 1500’s the palace was badly damaged when the Turks invaded Budapest, and then the palace fell into decay. It was destroyed completely in 1686 when the territory was captured by Christian forces. Numerous palaces were eventually built in the same spot, with the first being a Baroque-style palace built in 1715. Further construction occurred in the mid-18th century under the guidance of Queen Maria Theresa. The palace changed hands numerous times and was inhabited by nuns, the Habsburg’s, various armies, and even Franz Joseph. By the end of the 19th century, the palace was in a Neoclassical Baroque style. Sadly, the palace was heavily damaged during World War 2, but today it has been mostly restored. Buda Castle has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

You can usually use the Castle Hill Funicular to get to Buda Castle, however, again, as is the theme here, it was undergoing renovation. It was built in 1870 to bring people to Buda Castle. It was destroyed in World War 2 and reopened on June 4th, 1986. The funicular has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. The cost to ride on the funicular is 1800 HUF ($7.75 CDN).On the same Castle Hill is Matthias Church, also known as the Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle. It is a Roman Catholic church located in the Holy Trinity Square. It was originally built in a Romanesque style in 1015. The current building was built in 1370 in its current Gothic style and was extensively restored between 1874-1895 by architect Frigyes Schulek.

Right next door is Fisherman’s Bastion, a Neo-Romanesque style monument located inside the Buda Castle complex on Castle Hill. It provides amazing views from its terraces that overlook the Danube River. After Buda Castle was destroyed and the castle officially lost its function as a militaristic structure in 1874, the idea was to build something more communal instead of defensive for citizens to better appreciate the great views over the city and the Danube. It was built between 1895 and 1902 as part of a series of developments to celebrate the 1000th birthday of Hungary. Unfortunately, during World War 2 it was damaged fairly significantly. The looking tower took most of the force and the Ministry of Finance building burned to the ground and was later replaced with a Hilton Hotel in 1976.

From Fisherman’s Bastion you can see The Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The bridge is a chain bridge (think historic suspension bridge made of chain links) that spans the River Danube between Buda (west side) and Pest (east side). Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark, it was originally constructed between 1840 and 1849. It’s a larger-scale version of the Marlow Bridge, which Clark had designed earlier. The bridge was designed in sections and shipped from the UK to Hungary for final construction. The bridge received its name from István Széchenyi, a major supporter of its construction. The bridge is 375 metres (1230 feet) long. The original bridge was updated and strengthened in 1914, but unfortunately, it was destroyed during World War 2 on January 18th, 1945 by the Germans during the Siege of Budapest. It was rebuilt and opened in 1949. It’s also currently undergoing major renovation work, so I wasn’t able to get great photos of it.

It was now time to take a train to the Roman City of Aquincum. Aquincum is an ancient Roman city that is right in the centre of Budapest. Aquincum was originally settled by the Eravisci, a Celtic tribe. Between 41-54 AD the Roman’s had arrived with a strong military presence and took over the settlement. The city grew around the fortress, and after Pannonia was recognized by the Romans in 106 AD, it became the capital city of the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior. By the end of the 2nd century over 30,000 people were living in the city. The city was largely destroyed during the mid-4th century when the city was under constant attack from the North by the Sarmatian’s. Eventually, the Roman’s pulled out of the area by 409 AD when the Germans and Atilla the Hun invaded the region.

I then took a fairly long bus ride to see Heroes Square, however, guess what… it was also under renovation. Heroes’ Square is a major square in the middle of the city. It’s recognized by its iconic statue complex that features the seven chieftains of the Magyars, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heros. The square was originally built from 1896 to 1906 to commemorate the thousand-year anniversary of the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin, and the foundation of the Hungarian state in 1896. Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when the monument was originally constructed, so there were 5 spaces to the left of the colonnade reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty. The monument was damaged during World War 2 and when it was rebuilt the Habsburgs were replaced by the current figures. The Memorial Stone of Heros was originally built in 1929 to commemorate those who died defending Hungary’s 1000-year-old borders. It was removed in 1951 as its message was politically unacceptable by the Communist regime. It was rebuilt in 1956.

It was now time to get some lunch, as I was fairly hungry. I stopped at a restaurant close by called Nyereg, and had some rooster soup, as well as an IPA beer.


After my delicious lunch, I walked around The Széchenyi Thermal Baths. The baths are the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its water is supplied by two hot springs whose temperature is 74°C (165 °F). The thermal baths were opened in 1913 and were designed by architect Eugene Schmitterer. Over 6 million litres of hot water are piped into the baths daily. The baths have varying temperatures ranging from 27° to 38°C in the three outdoor pools, and 18°C to 38°C in the indoor pools. The complex also has saunas and steam rooms. Due to COVID, I didn’t feel very comfortable being stuffed in close quarters in water with other people.

Nearby is Vajdahunyad Castle. It was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 895 AD. The castle was designed by Ignác Alpár. Since the castle contains parts of buildings from different time periods, it contains various different architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The castle was originally constructed out of wood and cardboard, but was rebuilt between 1904 and 1908. Today the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture occupies the building. I went to the top of one of the towers to try to get better photos, however, I don’t think it was worth it. At least it was only $2 CDN.

My feet were starting to get tired, however, there were two more stops on my itinerary today. The second last stop was the Hungarian Institute of Geology and Geophysics building. The building, designed by Ödön Lechner, was originally built in 1896 for the Hungarian Geological Society, now named the Geological Institute of Hungary. The building contains minerals, prehistoric footprints, and general information on geology. This is a special, invite-only kind of building, which you need to book weeks or months in advance. I wouldn’t have gone inside anyway, as none of this kind of stuff interests me.

The last and final stop for today was Ráth György-Villa, which was built in 1880 in Art Nouveau architecture style. György Ráth was the first director-general of the Museum of Applied Arts and was an influential figure in Budapest. In 1901 he purchased the villa and furnished it with artefacts. After his passing, he left his possessions to his wife, Gizseilla Melcsiczky, with the instructions to make his collection the property of the Museum of Applied Arts. The museum was officially founded in 1907. After World War 2 and the establishment of proletarian dictatorship, the museum was considered unjust and harmful to the views of socialism. In 1954 the museum was renamed the China Museum and featured Chinese exhibitions until 2014 when it closed. In September 2018 the villa was reopened in its current name, with a permanent exhibition entitled Our Art Nouveau, which presents some beautiful Art Nouveau pieces of work. My favorite was the clock.


I went back to the hotel to do about 5 hours of work, before venturing out again to get some dinner. I liked the street food from the Karavan Budapest area so much that I decided to go back. This time I had a delicious pork burger from Langos Burger. Wow, was it incredible! Next door was Szimpla Kert, a “ruin pub” with vintage decor. It has a very neat vibe to it. I decided to have a quick IPA before heading back to the hotel to do a bit more work, as well as work on my blog for a bit.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as I have much more of Budapest to show you.

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Iceland 2021 – Glymur Falls and Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River

Today started off with Dominos Pizza for breakfast, a strong start for the fuel I needed to hike to Glymur Falls, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, which cascades 198 metres to valley below.

After scarfing down my pizza, which I have to note tastes significantly better than Dominos Pizza back in Canada, I grabbed a coffee from the lobby area in my hotel and proceeded to drive about 75 minutes to Glymur Falls. The trail starts off walking relatively flat for about 1.5km through some shale and shrubs until you get to a cave. You descend some stairs through the cave before shortly arriving at the first of two rivers crossings. This is where I ran into Kim and Sander, a travelling couple from Chicago. We ended up taking pictures of each other crossing the river, and stayed with each other for the remainder of the hike. The river crossing has a log and a hand line to assist you in getting across.

After crossing the river the trail starts to get very steep, with some areas where you have to scramble. luckily there are ropes to assist you if required. You can start to see the sheer magnificence of the waterfall cascading to the valley below. There was also quite a few birds perched on ledges and flying down into the valley.

You continue climbing until you get to the top of the waterfall where you cross the Botnsa River for a second time. This time the river was much wider, but was quite shallow. I had to stop and take my shoes off, and put on my water shoes to cross the freezing cold river.

After crossing the river you continue to loop back towards the car, with a fairly steep descent in some areas. I said bye to Kim and Sander and wished them well on the rest of their trip.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to source some lunch. I drove back to Reykjavik and stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant called Viethouse for some nice hot beef pho.

After lunch I drove about an hour south to Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River, a famous hot spring river where you can soak in the hot water and take in the beautiful views. There’s a parking lot and a restaurant at the base of the hike, where you have to pay a nominal parking fee of about $2 CDN/hour. The 4km hike to the thermal river takes about 1 hour, as you have to ascend 347 metres. Along the hike to the geothermally active portion of the river you are presented with a beautiful view of a fairly significant waterfall.

Upon arriving at the geothermally active portion of the river you’ll notice that there are some wall partitions for you to have a bit of privacy to change into your bathing suit before you jump into the hot water. I’m unsure of the exact temperature but I’d probably place it closer to 40-42°C, as I found it hotter than the Blue Lagoon. I soaked in the river for about 40 minutes before getting changed and headed back to my car to drive back to my hotel.

Tomorrow I’m heading on a three day hike on Landmannalaugar Trail so it was time to pack my bags and drop them off at some rental lockers At the hotel I packed my bags and dropped them off at some rental lockers at Reykjavik Bus Terminal. It was also time to drop off my rental car, so I dropped that off as well. I was getting fairly hungry so I decided to try out a local hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This is apparently the best place to go for some late night hot dogs if you’ve had too much too drink.

After having a hot dog I figured it was time to try one of the local scooters, since I was so far away from my hotel. I rode back to my hotel and get ready for bed as I have to wake up very early tomorrow morning for a 630am bus to Landmannalaugar. Be sure to check back soon to continue on with my Iceland adventures.

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August 21st 2016 – New Zealand Day 1

Today I woke up at 6:30am so that I could pickup my camper van. I was supposed to walk to the International Terminal at Auckland Airport to catch the “yellow bus” to the Britz campervan pickup location, but the “yellow bus” happened to be parked right outside my hotel picking up passengers to take to the airport. I hopped on the bus and arrived about 40 minutes early at Britz. I had a coffee while I waited and picked up some brochures.
When the time was ready I signed all the paperwork and picked up my campervan; a new model 2014 Mercedes Sprinter LWB (Long Wheel Base). The camper only had 30,000km on the clock, and looked immaculate inside. I drove back to my hotel that I stayed at the night before so that I could pickup my bags, and go to the grocery store across the street. I picked up $120 worth of groceries, and got myself a bottle of wine and a case of beer.
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It was time to hit the road! My goal over the next few days is to do the Northwest loop and visit Cape Reinga. I put in my first destination; Davenport. Davenport played a role during World War 2 and was used as an outpost to spot enemy ships.
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The next stop was Orewa Beach, where I walked along the beach and also picked up some more groceries because I forgot some. I forgot coffee, which is the most important thing!
The next stop was Waiwera Thermal Resort, which was quite relaxing. I relaxed in the thermal pools, and went down the waterslides a few times. When I was in the hot pools a small girl (about age 4-5) jumped into the pool from a kids play area, and couldn’t swim and started drowning. The mother was nowhere to be seen, and the lifeguard was too busy reading a book to even notice. I grabbed the girl and started looking around to see if I could find the mother. The girl was crying, breathing, and appeared to be okay since it was only about 5 seconds of panic before I saved her. The mother came up to me and grabbed the girl out of my arms and didn’t even say thank you, and stormed off. I feel so sorry for that girl. I went up to the lifeguard and explained what just happened and she didn’t even seem to care. This really disappointed me because she’s getting paid to watch over people and save lives. Apparently her book is more important. I left the thermal pools at around 2:00pm.
I had a two hour drive ahead of me towards Whangarei. I was getting tired along the way so I pulled over and made myself a cup of coffee. Good thing I purchased that coffee! I was almost in Whangarei, when I saw a sign that distracted me; Waipu Caves. I decided to detour to Waipu, and I’m glad that I did. They were glow worm caves, and best of all they were all natural and free! I took a ton of photos trying to get the right balance of light and finally got a few that I was satisfied with. I also hiked along a small 1.5 hour hike to a beautiful lookout.
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It was getting dark now so I had to find a place to stay. I drove into Whangarei, and found a spot on a small nature reserve near the aquatic centre. I parked next to two other campers, and cooked myself some dinner. Dinner was pasta with home made meat sauce.
I worked on my blog for a bit, and had a beer, before going to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Whangarei falls before heading up to Cape Reinga.

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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